TILDA The fashion world is obsessed with Tilda Swinton. Laura Brown asks her how to be the ultimate original.
omething weird happens to fashion people when they talk about Tilda Swinton. These folk use the term “obsessed” about a pair of shoes, so when it comes to Swinton, they basically collapse, clutching their Dior pearls.
To boil it down, Swinton is an original. Yes, she dresses incredibly, in exotic Haider Ackermann silks, epic Lanvin gowns, and kilts with nubby Pringle sweaters. And she lies in a glass box in a gallery for a week. But she’s also funny as hell. I’ve met her a number of times, had tea, gossiped. Our last detailed discussion involved unfortunate malecelebrity Botox.
So while I love Swinton for all the fashion reasons, I thought I’d ask her how I can Tilda-fy myself. “Super easy,” she replies. “Just take your mascara off.” Done. How about her famed mystique? “I bulk-buy it online at a discount by the tin. I can hook you up.” Oh, this Tilda stuff is simple.
Though she’s often sans mascara, she adores make-up. The new face of Nars, she loves cosmetics’ transformative power. “The wonderful thing about make-up for me is that a little goes a very long way,” she says. “So the possibilities of making new faces with it – in my work – are pretty tantalising.” What remains the same is her signature androgynous haircut. “Sam McKnight was the first one to buzz the sides, about nine years ago. Now Odile Gilbert cuts it most often, bless her heart. It’s like pruning a bush or a very furry animal.”
Like an animal, Swinton follows her instincts. She recently starred in a one-woman performance piece in Paris, Cloakroom, in which she inspected guests’ jackets and interacted lovingly with each and every garment.
The experience was described as a “fashion show without a net.” “Hmm, I suppose every fashion show thinks of itself as netless,” she muses. “Certainly for most designers I know, showing their work publicly for the first time seems to be an experience akin to throwing yourself off a cliff for a sevenminute free fall.”
In her own cloakroom at home in Scotland, you will find “six pairs of gum boots, a pair of ancient trawlerman’s loafers, one velvet slipper, a can of deicer for the car, three macs, nine ponchos bought on impulse in Mexico – rarely worn and never regretted – four puffy jackets, two schoolbags, six stripy cushions for the lawn, and a framed placard written by my friend Mark Cousins from our film festival saying, ‘There is a light that never goes out.’”
As for her actual closet, Swinton explains that it’s smaller than her groupies would think. Her sartorial highlight reel consists of “boys’ shirts, three kilts, an extended family of jerseys, some of which I’ve had since school, Horiyoshi the Third and Bella Freud cardigans and scarves, three highly prized Sybil Connolly skirts for dancing, Liwan nightshirts, summer dresses, and general Lebanese menswear.”
This is why we silly fashion people love her. She’s the only woman on the big screen, on the stage – and certainly in Scotland – who owns “general Lebanese menswear.” So why does she think fashion folk get so obsessed with her anyway? Her answer is both amused and swift: “Now stop this.”
Tilda Swinton at a film premiere in Berlin